CADDYSHACK

By Marc S. Sanders

Do you think in 10 years or even 50 years from now, people will remember that Harold Ramis was one of the funniest writers in film history? Animal House, Stripes, Scrooged, Groundhog Day (I hate it, but I won’t deny its legacy every February 2nd), and Ghostbusters. One film that cemented the stage for his success in the 1980s is arguably Caddyshack, which focuses on the snobs vs slobs at a high-end golf country club known as…ahem…Bushwood. It’s okay to laugh. Your mother is not in the room.

Caddyshack is more or less a vehicle for the comedic talents of Saturday Night Live players to put out their best material seemingly made up on the fly. Bill Murray is the demented grounds keeper tasked with getting rid of a damaging gopher. Chevy Chase seems to be the charmer with a delivery of wit in every word he says. He’s more or less good looking here but just as deliberately stupid as everyone else. Rodney Dangerfield goes beyond his stand-up routines, or maybe he doesn’t. He’s just shoved into the film and let loose to anger and harass the head snob, Ted Knight. Knight is unquestionably the best of the bunch here. He’s got such great timing with his outbursts and delivery. I even love how he pronounces the car maker Audi. It’s more like “ottie.”

Ramis has a thin storyline about one caddy (Michael O’Keefe) trying to win a college scholarship. Meh. So what! Caddyshack works best when it’s just playing for skits and raw laughs. There’s gross out comedy like doodie in the swimming pool, compliments of a Baby Ruth candy bar, and vomiting in cars. Dangerfield’s one liners are fast and loose. The judge’s daughter is a sly minx for the dweeby male cast to ogle, and the gopher footage with Murray is straight out of Looney Toons. I do love the irony of the Catholic priest going out to play 9 holes in the middle of an electrical storm; a prophet who will spit in the face of God. “OH RAT FARTS!!!!”

Caddyshack is not my favorite of Ramis’ films, but it’s become a touchstone in comedy quotes and repeat viewings. It’s stupid and coarse and silly and belongs nowhere in the Parthenon of great filmmaking efforts but it’s a favorite of almost anyone’s for how brash it truly is. It’s an R rated interpretation of The Three Stooges. If not for nothing, I’m sure that somewhere there is an esteemed judge of the cloth who was proud to sentence young men to the gas chamber as a means of “owing it to them.”

Harold Ramis with co-writer Brian Doyle Murray (Bill’s brother) conceived of Caddyshack as a push back against that system of order. Well done, men. Tee up!

EASY MONEY

By Marc S. Sanders

Monty Capuletti is played by Rodney Dangerfield in the comedy Easy Money. The name of the role is just there for script purposes really. This is basically just Rodney playing Rodney, and had he been in more scenes, this film would have been one of the all-time great comedies. It really would have been legendary. Unfortunately, it suffers from a side story that generates no laughs and bogs the picture down to a screeching halt.

Monty is a baby photographer, and I can’t think of a better or more appropriate occupation for Rodney Dangerfield to play for some easy, gut busting laughs. Let that sink in for a moment. Rodney Dangerfield…as a…baby photographer! I couldn’t contain myself when he was trying to get a plump toddler to sit still and finally unleashes a tirade of inappropriate expletives. Comedy works best when one party is tainted by another.

Monty drinks, smokes, gambles, overeats and often visits the local strip joints with his best pal, Nicky Cerone (a perfect partnership with Joe Pesci). His hoity mother-in-law (Geraldine Fitzgerald) has never approved of her daughter’s (Candice Azzara) marriage to this offensive slob. When mother passes away, she leaves Monty her ten-million-dollar furniture store enterprise to him, but only if he gives up on all of his habits as well as loses some weight. This is a perfect set up for a Rodney Dangerfield movie. Unfortunately, it does not go far enough with the gags.

The first thirty minutes are comedy gold as we see Monty and Nicky going from one moment of debauchery to the next. When they lose big on the horse races, I about died watching Nicky take to the field to punch out the rider. When they pick up the wedding cake for Monty’s daughter’s wedding and wedge it into the back of Nicky’s plumbing van next to the toilet, I had to pause the film to catch my breath and finish laughing. Plus, think for a moment of what’s gonna happen to that cake before the night is done. It’s more hilarious than you could possibly imagine. The first thirty minutes paint a perfect picture of Monty and his terrible ways.

When the turning point happens after Mother dies, the remaining hour only generates a handful of memorable moments. The film diverts to Jennifer Jason Leigh as Monty’s daughter who has now married a greasy gang member eager to take her virginity. She leaves the jerk on her wedding night and the film takes up too much time with the guy trying win her back. Dangerfield is not in much of this storyline, nor is Leigh. It focuses way too much on a boring performance from actor Taylor Negron as the jilted groom who is not funny in any way. As well, his selection of scenes come off unfinished at times. The groom, Julio, climbs to the outside of the second story of the house one night and falls off the pipe he’s holding on to, but you never see his reaction or where he lands. In Tom & Jerry cartoons, you were always treated to the aftermath of the fall or the big bang where little birds flew around poor Tom’s head. Did the editors just fall asleep in post?

The wedding ceremony at church and the reception in the fenced in New Jersey backyard? Now that’s funny. Really funny. Just look at the outfits for one thing. Purple tuxedos for the groomsmen. Lime green dresses for the bridesmaids and the inevitable overly, emotional, tears of joy family member who just won’t shut up. It’s a perfect tempo for laughs. I’m laughing as I recall this moment. The Italian gathering of hundreds of people dancing in a perfect overhead shot of a crammed in backyard is an absolute contrast to the elegance you’ll find in The Godfather.

Monty’s struggle with giving up on his unhealthy lifestyle is not touched upon enough and I can’t understand why. The door was wide open for these moments. Imagine Monty at an AA meeting or an Overeaters Anonymous gathering. Opportunities were missed in Easy Money. A perfect set up with not enough of an execution. I was ready to declare this film as Rodney’s best (better than Caddyshack or Back To School) but then the last hour settled in.

Easy Money is not a terrible movie. Far from it. It just could have been so much more. Watch the first thirty minutes, and then turn on Back To School to feel fulfilled.